September 18, 2009
celebratory program in the Belson Moot Court Room of the St. John’s
University School of Law, presided over by
Rev. Donald J. Harrington, President, and Dr.
Julia A. Upton, Provost,
Michael A. Simons was formally installed as the ninth dean of
the School of Law, which was founded in 1925.
View Dean's Installation Video
During the ceremony, both Fr. Harrington and Dean Simons
described the law school’s origins in downtown Brooklyn when St.
John’s College, as it was then known, was a small inter-city
school, and noted that while its size and stature have greatly
increased, it is still true to the Vincentian spirit which gave
rise to its creation. Both the President and the new Dean
referred to Rev. John Cloonan, in 1925 the President of the
College, and Dean Simons quoted Fr. Cloonan as telling the
first-year law students to “early catch, jealously cultivate and
ever preserve the spirit of St. John’s.”
According to Dean Simons, the “spirit of St. John’s” is a
“spirit of diversity and inclusion and opportunity,” then as now
central to the University’s and the law school’s Vincentian
mission. Dean Simons noted that the 1925 entering class was
filled with Jewish students, and enrolled more than 30 women, a
rarity at the time. The school graduated its first Hispanic
student in 1929, its African-American student in 1931, and the
first Asian-American to enter the legal profession in New York
State in 1934 – clear testament to the law school’s mission of
access and opportunity for those underrepresented in society, a
mission as true today as it was 85 years ago.
The installation celebration, attended by over 200 alums and
dignitaries, included remarks from
Christopher Borgen, Professor of Law and Associate Dean for
International Studies (representing the faculty); Melissa King, the
top graduate of the Class of 2009 (representing the students); and
Hon. Reinaldo E. Rivera, Class of 1977, Associate Justice,
Appellate Division, Second Judicial Department (President of the
Alumni Association). Associate Academic Dean and Professor of
Law Margaret V. Turano served as Master of Ceremonies and Rev.
Kevin Creagh, Chaplain to the School of Law, delivered the
Benediction at the conclusion of the program, which was followed by
a gala reception in the school’s Mattone Family Atrium.
On behalf of the University, Fr. Harrington expressed great
confidence in the new Dean, who in turn described his optimism and
intent to lead the school to greatness.